I exchanged a series of emails leading up to the big game with Jon over at Corn Nation. Listen in below.
Burnt Orange Nation: On a scale of one to drooling, how badly do you want to win on Saturday? What's your read of the sentiment of the fan base at large?
Corn Nation: Drooling is the upper limit? Put it this way, if I were 1984's Winston, and Big Brother guaranteed a Texas loss if I gave up Julia, they wouldn't even have to get me to Room 101, I'd be giving her up in a heartbeat. Put Julia's face in front of the rats!
The Husker fan base.... hmmmm.... let's think about that for a minute. Unlike Tom Osborne and Harvey Perlman, the Husker fan base does resent a lot of what's happened with the Big 12, but mostly because of that 1-8 record. Even more aggravating are the close losses.
Yeah, we're drooling, and if we all be drooling, then we be drooling by the bucket.
"Nebraska is going to kick Texas' ass. The Longhorns may as well walk in below a sign that says: "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." What's your response to that?
Burnt Orange Nation: Funny, Memorial Stadium is our house. We just let you play there.
We'll choose the signage, thank you very much: "Memorial Stadium: (Leased) Home of the Huskers" has a nice ring to it, don't you think?
Sigh... I'm going to Lincoln, but I'm not hopeful at all. Fortunately, it doesn't matter how Texas fans feel, so long as the team believes it can win. I expect they do, but it's difficult to imagine our offense having a successful day.
Enlighten us anyway. What's the best way to attack this Nebraska defense?
Corn Nation: I'd run straight at them, keep everything going north-south and minimize negative plays. While the Blackshirts shut down KSU's Daniel Thomas pretty well, I'm still not sold on their ability to completely shut down the run. The coaches adjust well, but when they adjust, the opposing offensive coach must recognize what they're giving up and then attack that area.
This "sideline to sideline and hope we break a tackle" stuff isn't going to work as Bo Pelini's defensive philosophy is geared toward minimizing big plays. Pelini loves to blitz heavy on sure third-down passing plays, so to counter that I'd have some middle screens ready.
I'd bounce that same question back to you, but get a little more specific. Who wins in the battle of Nebraska's offensive line versus Kheeston Randall and the rest of your defensive line?
Burnt Orange Nation: It needs to be us if Texas is to win. With apologies to your boy Crick, Kheeston Randall is the best tackle in the league, with disruptive ability that can really create problems for what the offense is trying to do. But I'll be watching Alex Okafor (true sophomore who moved inside from end this year) just as closely, as he delivered a very promising performance against Oklahoma, and we'll need him giving us 25 quality snaps this Saturday, as well. I'm less keen on the options behind those two.
So what's your feeling about how Bo Pelini will approach this game? Do you expect we'll see what we've seen all year from Nebraska, or do you expect some wrinkles in his approach?
Corn Nation: Well, you'd think you'd see the zone read in the first series so Shawn Watson can get an idea of how Texas plans to defend and Taylor Martinez' speed.
We have yet to see Rex Burkhead running the Wildcat formation that worked so well against Arizona in the Holiday Bowl. (One of the reasons it worked so well is because Mike Stoops was completely unprepared for it.)
Maybe a little more zone read option - with Roy Helu or Rex Burkhead trailing behind Martinez, looking for a pitch. If there's one way Nebraska can lose, though, it's on turnovers. I believe Nebraska will work hard to minimize risk early and see how the game flows.
It's clear Martinez is our big play guy. Who's the Texas guy who can really hurt us on offense?
Burnt Orange Nation: D.J. Monroe and Malcolm Williams are the two keys to Texas finding some big plays on offense. You probably saw Monroe in the Oklahoma game - you know, the guy who romped for a 60 yard touchdown and then was basically shelved. Needs to work on that pass protection, donchaknow!
As for Williams, we know Pelini likes to man up on the outside, and I fully expect him to make Texas prove they can pop Nebraska for big plays down the field. We're typically too timid even to try, but as badly as the Texas coaches have been blasted the last three weeks for playing passively, I'd guess they'll finally give it a shot. If we do, and it works, Malcolm Williams is a guy who can make you pay.
Within everything else we do, both Marquise Goodwin and Mike Davis are excellent players, and tying it all together here, one of the beneficial byproducts of taking real shots deep down the field will be to give Davis and Goodwin space to maneuver underneath. Otherwise, they'll find themselves just as smothered as was Shipley last year.
Speaking of which, fill us in on how your safeties are coming along. I've been very impressed with Gomes, and Thenarse seems solid enough. Both strike me a little bit as feast or famine, though. Fair?
Corn Nation: Good question. Gomes will play a hybrid linebacker/safety role sometimes, and he has shown a tendency to get suckered in too close to the line and get caught up in second-level blocking at times. It's easy to say he got over it against Kansas State, but they didn't have the multiple of weapons that the Longhorns have.
Thenarse, I think he's just been pretty solid. He's a helluva hitter. There's a third guy, P.J. Smith, who might as well be considered a starting safety. He seems to be in the right place at the right time, having picked off three passes despite not being on the field all the time.
A lot of Husker fans see Mack Brown talking up Nebraska, saying how much he respects Nebraska, and they believe it's part of the same game that Lou Holtz used to play, trying to gain some psychological edge, but this folksy, smarmy gooey goodness is really just who Mack Brown is, isn't it?
Burnt Orange Nation: More or less, but I wouldn't characterize him as smarmy; he's genuinely respectful, polite, and complimentary, and while his mannerisms are definitely folksy and easy to mock, the sincerity is earnest. In any event, it suits Texas fans well, and I expect it would y'all, too. He represents the University well.
Okay, let's wrap this thing up. Tell me, should Texas fans check their hope at the stadium gates? Or behind all that talk are you secretly sweating this game? Give us your prediction.
Corn Nation: Oh, how coy is that "are you secretly sweating this game"? Give me a break. Nebraska has a 1-8 record against you sunsabitches, the vast majority of them with you winning by pulling something out of your ass at the last moment. We've suffered last second death, death by fumble, death by field goal, death by interception, death by you discovering our defensive coordinator couldn't defend the spread to save his life, death by Ricky Williams, and death by Roll Left.
There's all sorts of deadly possibilities left, with death by safety, death by return (punt, kick, or pick six), and death by ref getting the way just to name a few.
Husker fans who aren't secretly sweating this game will have either gotten too much courage from a bottle or be engulfed by too much testosterone to notice.
Having said that, I remain confident. The team that gets to 27 points wins this game. Your offense can't generate that much against our defense by themselves, but we've been as turnover prone as anyone. Two TD's by your offense, one by your defense, giving you 21 points.
Nebraska's offense will generate two big running touchdowns, two field goals because of turnovers, and one through the air, giving us 27.
Final: Nebraska 27, Texas 21.
Burnt Orange Nation: It's hard for any Texas fan to predict a win in this one given the states of the respective offenses heading in, but I'll do it anyway, if only to be spirited about it all.
The hopeful forecast for Texas centers on historical precedent. We've seen this horror show before, and while it's disappointing our coaches didn't learn enough from it not to let it happen again, in the past they always emerged from the wreckage with guns blazing, leading us to wonder why they had to go through the same slow-motion wreck to start the next year, too.
Well, we've done it again, and at least there's reason to believe we'll come out playing to win. Grasping at silver linings? You bet I am, but hey, it's better than resigning myself to doom. I'm actually traveling to Lincoln for this one, and I need to have hope.
So the hope is that Texas comes out gunning, and catches a few good breaks in doing so. If we start well, we'll compete all the way to the end on this one, and we're a more talented team than we've played to date. All the on-field evidence spells nightmare, but at least where Texas-Nebraska is concerned, the sleepless nights are reserved for y'all.
Texas 23 Nebraska 20